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Encyclopedia > Podkayne of Mars

Image:podkayne.JPG front cover of podkayne of mars by robert a. ...

Podkayne of Mars is a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein published in 1963, about a teenage girl named Podkayne and her little brother, an antisocial genius, who leave their home on Mars to take a trip on a spaceliner to see Venus and Earth, accompanied by their uncle. Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... Robert A. Heinlein Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most influential authors in the science fiction genre. ... 1963 was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

This book, along with Starship Troopers, shows Heinlein uneasily evolving away from his old, comfortable territory of juvenile SF novels. Both books were written for a publisher expecting to market a juvenile SF novel, and both raised serious objections from the publisher. Starship Troopers cover Starship Troopers is a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein first published in 1959. ...

Podkayne of Mars starts out as an innocent and somewhat dull story; she is, after all, on a luxury cruise. The early lack of drama and conflict is mitigated only by the masterly and humorous touch with which Heinlein handles the first-person narrative, and the very believable description of the voyage, much of which is based on Heinlein's own experiences as a naval officer and world traveler. For example, there is an incident in the book in which Clark is asked "Anything to declare?" and answers "Two kilos of happy dust!" This incident is taken from Heinlein's own travels, as related in Tramp Royale, in which his wife answers the same question with "heroin" substituted for "happy dust." Tramp Royale is a nonfiction travelogue by science fiction writen Robert A. Heinlein, describing how he and his wife went around the world by ship and plane in 1953-1954. ...

Not until fairly late in the story do we learn that Podkayne's uncle is involved in interplanetary diplomacy, and there is a plot to kill him or blackmail him into inaction. Finally, Podkayne's brother is kidnapped, and Podkayne, attempting to rescue him, falls into the kidnappers' clutches as well.

Two versions of the ending

In Heinlein's original ending, Podkayne dies in the explosion of a nuclear bomb that her brother Clark intends kill only the kidnappers. Podkayne, fleeing the area to be destroyed by the bomb, realizes that a semi-intelligent Venerian "fairy" has been left behind, and returns to rescue it, giving her life in the process. Clark takes over the narrative for the last chapter, and we learn that Uncle Tom blames their mother for gallivanting around on space engineering jobs rather than concentrating on the proper upbringing of her children. Uncle Tom feels that Clark is dangerous and maladjusted, and attributes this to the mother's failure to raise him better. The story ends with a hint of hope for Clark, as he describes his plan to raise the fairy himself.

Heinlein's publisher, however, asked him to change the ending, and he did. In the revised version, Podkayne is injured by the bomb, but recovers, and the moral of the story, as spoken by Uncle Tom, is omitted entirely.

The 1995 Baen edition includes both endings (they differ only on the last page), as well as a collection of readers' essays giving their opinions about which ending is better. Most of these readers favored the sad ending, partly because they felt Heinlein should have been free to create his own story, and partly because they believed that with the changed ending, a tragedy had been made into a mere adventure, and not a very well constructed one at that. To many readers, Podkayne's death is one of the more moving passages Heinlein ever wrote. They felt that Heinlein was pointing out how the innocent and pure of heart so often pay for the sins of others, and was trying, through Uncle Tom's narrative, to make a point about the upbringing of children: who takes the place of a working mother? The changed ending also removed the depiction of the powerful sense of loss when the innocent die through no fault of their own.

The opposing view, in favor of the happy ending, may be preferred by many simply because they have grown to love Podkayne's sweet personality, or because the tragedy lacks logic: the earlier parts of the book do not in fact describe the mother as neglectful, and in any case there is no dramatic reason to punish Podkayne for her mother's supposed sins. Although Heinlein wrote in a letter to his literary agent that revising the story would be like "revising Romeo and Juliet to let the young lovers live happily ever after," some readers might object that his original version was like a Romeo and Juliet in which the feud between the Capulets and Montagues was never made clear to the audience.


  • Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, 176 pages, ISBN 0425089010
  • February 1963, Putnam Publishing Group, hardcover, ISBN 0399106421
  • January 1, 1976, Hodder & Stoughton General Division, paperback, ISBN 0450002780
  • December 1976, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0425031535
  • December 1976, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0425034348
  • June 1979, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0425042367
  • March 1982, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0425057135
  • September 1983, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0425068269
  • June 15, 1987, Ace, paperback reissue edition, ISBN 044167402X
  • August 1, 1993, Baen, paperback reprint, 224 pages, ISBN 0671721798
  • July 1, 1995, Baen, paperback, 288 pages, ISBN 0671876716
  • April 1, 1999, Yestermorrow Inc, hardcover, ISBN 1567231640
  • October 1, 1999, Sagebrush, library binding, ISBN 0613015681
  • January 31, 2003, Robert Hale Ltd, hardcover, ISBN 0709071396
  • June 28, 2005, Ace, paperback, 224 pages, ISBN 0441012981

  Results from FactBites:
Mars - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3810 words)
Mars has only a quarter the surface area of the Earth and only one-tenth the mass, though its surface area is approximately equal to that of the Earth's dry land because Mars lacks oceans.
The datum for Mars is defined by the fourth-degree and fourth-order spherical harmonic gravity field, with the zero altitude defined by the 610.5 Pa (6.105 mbar) atmospheric pressure surface (approximately 0.6% of Earth's) at a temperature of 273.16 K. This pressure and temperature correspond to the triple point of water.
Mars Odyssey determined that there are vast deposits of water ice in the upper three meters of Mars' regolith within 60° latitude of the south pole.
  More results at FactBites »



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